Project team

  • Dominic Oldman
    Head of ResearchSpace
  • Maria Anagnostopoulou
    Project Manager: ResearchSpace
  • Mike Kelly and Diana Tanase
    Project Curators

More about the project


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The ResearchSpace project emerged from an idea for a shared digital research infrastructure proposed by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The vision was to enable projects to address different research questions, employing a range of investigative methods, tools and visualisations, while supporting collaboration and knowledge sharing across projects and institutions. This flexible, shared platform would reduce project costs, use innovative digital methods, and focus more resources for research.

The British Museum took up the challenge of this vision and started investigating how it could be achieved. This did not begin with a technological approach, but instead looked at how cultural heritage organisations represented their information. By promoting a method of representation using a contextual data framework (one which provides the context in which a thing, place, person, group, event or period is recorded), rather than using existing documentation standards, a richer semantic representation could be used more relevant to a wider range of audiences and users.

Through a number of generous grants from the Foundation this new approach was tested with different technologies, and prototypes were created. The chosen technology was based on the Semantic Web (technologies associated with the Web of Data), using an enriched version of Linked Data and a semantic model called the CIDOC CRM. The CRM or Conceptual Reference Model, from the Council of Museums’ documentation wing, allows context and meaning to be embedded into data itself, rather than within software.

The result was a more meaningful and flexible system, ideal for exploring and adding new knowledge, in a format that helped preserve the outputs of digital research. With this approach, meaning is carried in the data itself, in an open standard text format, without software dependencies. Additionally, new things can be represented in a way useful to researchers and to wider audiences who want to learn about the history surrounding collections or other aspects of society, and how they interconnect.

The resulting work is the new British Museum ResearchSpace system, an open-source system which is already being used in various projects. The project now starts a new period of development and deployment, working with various research projects at the British Museum and in the wider community with continued support from the Mellon Foundation.